Calvin Booker — The Heritage at Millennium Park

One of Calvin Booker’s most unfor- gettable tasks in the property services industry was to greet the first person who ever moved into The Heritage at Millennium Park (130 N. Garland Ct.) back on December 17, 2004. The building was still under construction and the finishing touches were just being installed. “We didn’t even have a desk or anything,” he remembers. “The floor wasn’t put in.”

To compensate for the unfinished ambience, he and the staff arranged several chairs behind a makeshift desk that the construction crew had manu- factured out of pasteboard specifically for the occasion. With a few additional touches, they transformed the area into a proper setting for a celebration.

Calvin Booker (photo: Daniel Patton)

“We had a welcome sign, and the property manager—who was Dan Harvey back then—had a brunch type of thing laid out,” he continues.

According to Booker, the occasion was a sign of good things to come.

“The building filled up the very first year,” he says. “The Heritage is unbelievable, and the amenities are top of the line, too. We’ve continuously had a full building, 356 units, since that day.”

Booker is the son of an entrepreneur father and a homemaker mother who grew up “right off the lake” with 14 brothers and sisters in Bronzeville.

He was new to the industry when he first took the job. “Before this, I was managing retail stores, like Osco,” he explains. “I’ve always been in retail, you know, customer service. This is basically the same thing, dealing with residents and things like that, but a little more hands-on.”

He heard of the doorperson position through “a real, real close friend” from the Apostolic Church of God at 63rd and Dorchester, one of the places where he likes to “spend a lot of time.”

Since 1932, the church has grown from a small group of believers into a com- munity of 20,000 members. The con- gregation worships in two breathtaking sanctuaries and, under the guidance of the late Bishop Arthur Brazier, recently built a gymnasium for the youth.

The only things that inspire him as much as church activities are family activities, which keep him busy enough to qualify as a second career. But he’s more than happy to pursue it.

“God blessed me with five wonderful children and nine grandchildren,” he says. “My oldest granddaughter, she just graduated Saturday last week, and one of my grandsons, he graduated from grade school last Thursday. There’s nothing like family.”

Eric Gates, The Lancaster

Throughout the week, Eric Gates maintains a calm and professional demeanor while doing his job as doorperson at The Lancaster, where he has been employed since 2010. But on Sundays, it’s a different story.

“I sing gospel,” he says. “I’ve been singing my whole life.”

The inspiration started when he was barely able to walk.


“My first church I ever belonged to was Wesley Chapel,” he says. “It was a small church. My mom used to take me there. I was in the choir when I started, probably about three or four years old.”

His devotion has held strong ever since.

“I stuck with the choir because it was a passion,” he explains. “I love singing.”

Eric is a member of Ricky Dillard and the New Generation Chorale, a nationally recognized ensemble that travels and records around the country. The group’s performances have generated close to a million views on YouTube.

On regular Sundays for the past sixteen years, he has been singing at Resurrected Life Church International, a place of worship on West Fullerton Boulevard. with an immense dedication to the surrounding community and seperate ministries for children, youth, young professionals, seniors, women and more.

When he’s not singing or working, Eric occasionally visits friends in New Eastside, especially to watch the fireworks during holidays.

But he mostly prefers to spend time with his wife and children.

“I’ve been married for seven years to a wonderful woman,” he says.

“I love my kids. They’re funny, man. They keep you young. They do all the goofy stuff that you did. They’re in the children’s choir.”

To nominate your doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com

— Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

Maicheal Estepaniance, The Chandler

Maicheal Estepaniance’s commitment to his trade goes beyond the typical list of requirements on a job description.

Maicheal Estepaniance

Ever since earning a degree in hospitality and business management from Triton Community College, The Chandler Lead Doorman has invested hours of his personal time developing the skills to provide more than a superior level of service.

“I’m insured and trained in CPR and AED,” says the native Chicagoan.

He learned how to assist people who are suffocating (CPR) and use a device that helps prevent heart attacks (AED) through “a five-week course for customer service, fire, CPR and security issues“ offered by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The SEIU represents workers in the property services industry — essentially, the people who keep a high rise condominium running smoothly — as well as hospital, home care, and nursing home employees. The organization also helped Maicheal earn advanced firearms certification, but he is grateful that he’s never had to use it.

“Thank God, no,” he says.

This kind of discipline and follow through has been part of his character since he was a teenager. As a student at Mather High School on Chicago’s Northwest Side, he earned a spot on both the wrestling and the football team all four years. Then he spent a year and a half playing semi-pro football for the Oak Park Sharks.

“I played defensive end, right guard, and left tackle on the C team,” he says. “If you’re on the A team, there’s scouts looking for the NFL.”

These days, Estepaniance is content to help the daily needs of tenants in what he believes is one of New Eastside’s best properties.

“Not only the people, but the location,” he says. “We have the best sunrises.”

His favorite viewing time is when he assists children boarding the school bus on weekday mornings.

To nominate your doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Andre Johnson, Harbor Point Condominium

Harbor Point doorperson Andre Johnson has shown the skills to succeed in several occupations over the course of his career, and he says that attitude got him where he is today.

“I consider myself a people person, which is how I ended up doing the job I do now,” he explains. “I try to give the service, the performance and respect that I would like to receive.”

“The residents make my job easy,” he adds. “They are great.”

Johnson has been a lobby contact at Harbor Point for 23 years. He learned about the position from “another doorman who was working at the property.”

At the time, he was selling women’s shoes for Chernin’s in Downers Grove. Prior to that, he spent more than a decade as a restaurant manager in Montgomery, Alabama.

The town is home to Alabama State University, where Johnson earned a BS in Business Management and employed his 91-mph fastball pitching for the Division 1 Hornets baseball team.

Although he enjoyed the South for “its hospitality and people,” the native Chicagoan returned north to be closer to his family. But not before trying out for the Cincinnati Reds.

“It was an open call,” he says. “Your turn comes around, you show what you got.”

He did not make the team, but that’s okay. Besides working the Harbor Point lobby, he keeps busy running an interior design business and spending time with his wife and three children.

To nominate your doorpereson email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

Daniel Patton — Staff Writer

Al Hodzic, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel

Al Hodzic would be happy to keep his job at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel at 221 N. Columbus Dr. for the rest of his life.

“Someday, I’d like to be the GM of this place,” he explains. “But if not, I don’t mind remaining as a door attendant.”

img_2611a

Al Hodzsic

He joined the staff when he learned about a bell attendant position last year from his father, who works in the housekeeping department. When the gentleman who was door attendant at the time moved to another position in May, Hodzic was next in line. No doubt, the position fits him well.

“I love that it’s a job that is all interaction,” he continues. “I’m always dealing with guests.”

As the only person with the title of door attendant at the hotel, he is the first representative to greet guests and residents when they arrive and the last one to bid them farewell when they leave. For the duration of their stay, he handles a number of chores that are typical of such a position.

“We do everything from hailing cabs to picking up peoples’ laundry,” he says.

He also keeps a record of every person he enounters in a leatherbound, pocket-sized notebook.

Among the residents he serves are a number of artists, athletes and celebrities who have upped the location’s reputation as one of the city’s premiere  properties. According to Hodzic, the’re just as friendly as the rest.

When New Eastside News caught up with him on the job, Hodzic was saying hello to one of his favorite residents, Ms. Jeannie Klauberg.

“Hey, Miss Jeannie, how are you!” he exclaimed. “I’m going to be in the newspaper.”

“Oh, good!” she responded.

“He’s wonderful,” she continued. “He takes wonderful care of me. He immediately gets the cab for me. Helps me into the cab. Yesterday, when I was upset because my mother was sick, he was so kind and so giving.”

Hodzic also handles the occasional — and often unique — one-off task.

“I had a lady ask me to get her pants sewn back together,” he remembers. “She’s a resident here. She’s really nice. I don’t mind doing anything for her.”

For many of the hotel guests, he’s the go-to source for tourist information.

“If they’re going shopping, I always tell them to go north,” he says. “If they’re going to museums, go south.”

“I also get, ‘what’s a good restaurant?’ I always recommend, for breakfast, Wildberry. That’s my favorite place for breakfast. For lunch, I would have to say Tavern at the Park. I’ve been to all of them. They treat me well because they know me so it’s a good thing.”

For the early birds willing to brave the Chicago winter, Hodzic recommends the ice rink in Maggie Daley Park. “That’s always a good thing to do to start the day off,” he says.

For those looking to explore the city’s bar scene, he recommends starting the night at Sweetwater Tavern & Grill on Michigan Ave. and finishing it off at Underground on Illinois St.

When he’s not on duty, Hodzic hangs out at the same places that he suggests for guests and residents. He also prefers spending time with friends and family near his home in Edgewater, especially when his mother cooks her homemade Bosnian specialties.

“I was born in Bosnia,” he says. “I came here when I was four years old, right after the war. My mom makes the best Bosnian food. No other woman can compete. Meat, lamb. She makes pita. You can put whatever you want in it. My favorite is the one with spinach.”

Like most Bosnians, he’s also very fond of Rakia, the frequently home-brewed fruit brandy of the Balkans that is known by many, including Hodzic, as “a cure for everything.”

“You can buy it at Mariano’s,” he says. “It’s good, but nothing can compete with the stuff from home.”

— Daniel Patton

Al Hodzic, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel

Al Hodzic would be happy to keep his job at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel at 221 N. Columbus Dr. for the rest of his life.

“Someday, I’d like to be the GM of this place,” he explains. “But if not, I don’t mind remaining as a door attendant.”

img_2611a

Al Hodzsic

He joined the staff when he learned about a bell attendant position last year from his father, who works in the housekeeping department. When the gentleman who was door attendant at the time moved to another position in May, Hodzic was next in line. No doubt, the position fits him well.

“I love that it’s a job that is all interaction,” he continues. “I’m always dealing with guests.”

As the only person with the title of door attendant at the hotel, he is the first representative to greet guests and residents when they arrive and the last one to bid them farewell when they leave. For the duration of their stay, he handles a number of chores that are typical of such a position.

“We do everything from hailing cabs to picking up peoples’ laundry,” he says.

He also keeps a record of every person he enounters in a leatherbound, pocket-sized notebook.

Among the residents he serves are a number of artists, athletes and celebrities who have upped the location’s reputation as one of the city’s premiere  properties. According to Hodzic, the’re just as friendly as the rest.

When New Eastside News caught up with him on the job, Hodzic was saying hello to one of his favorite residents, Ms. Jeannie Klauberg.

“Hey, Miss Jeannie, how are you!” he exclaimed. “I’m going to be in the newspaper.”

“Oh, good!” she responded.

“He’s wonderful,” she continued. “He takes wonderful care of me. He immediately gets the cab for me. Helps me into the cab. Yesterday, when I was upset because my mother was sick, he was so kind and so giving.”

Hodzic also handles the occasional — and often unique — one-off task.

“I had a lady ask me to get her pants sewn back together,” he remembers. “She’s a resident here. She’s really nice. I don’t mind doing anything for her.”

For many of the hotel guests, he’s the go-to source for tourist information.

“If they’re going shopping, I always tell them to go north,” he says. “If they’re going to museums, go south.”

“I also get, ‘what’s a good restaurant?’ I always recommend, for breakfast, Wildberry. That’s my favorite place for breakfast. For lunch, I would have to say Tavern at the Park. I’ve been to all of them. They treat me well because they know me so it’s a good thing.”

For the early birds willing to brave the Chicago winter, Hodzic recommends the ice rink in Maggie Daley Park. “That’s always a good thing to do to start the day off,” he says.

For those looking to explore the city’s bar scene, he recommends starting the night at Sweetwater Tavern & Grill on Michigan Ave. and finishing it off at Underground on Illinois St.

When he’s not on duty, Hodzic hangs out at the same places that he suggests for guests and residents. He also prefers spending time with friends and family near his home in Edgewater, especially when his mother cooks her homemade Bosnian specialties.

“I was born in Bosnia,” he says. “I came here when I was four years old, right after the war. My mom makes the best Bosnian food. No other woman can compete. Meat, lamb. She makes pita. You can put whatever you want in it. My favorite is the one with spinach.”

Like most Bosnians, he’s also very fond of Rakia, the frequently home-brewed fruit brandy of the Balkans that is known by many, including Hodzic, as “a cure for everything.”

“You can buy it at Mariano’s,” he says. “It’s good, but nothing can compete with the stuff from home.”

— Daniel Patton

Craig Lykes, The Tides

Craig Lykes, Doorperson at The Tides (360 E. South Water St.), learned some of life’s most valuable lessons from his mother.

“She was an educator my whole life,” he explains. “She knew all the teachers and the principals, so I was always able to get help because they knew my mom personally.”

img_0388aHer extended network, he says, was his “most favorite thing” about having a mom who was a teacher. It not only helped his academic pursuits, but it also kept him honest and allowed him to develop great sense of humor.

“My least favorite thing about having a mom who was a teacher,” he jokes, “is that she knew all the teachers and the principals, man.”

By the time he graduated from Morgan Park High School in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, Craig definitely appreciated the value of a hard days work. But he wasn’t sure exactly how to make use of that appreciation. So he decided to join the army.

“I was not so much a troublemaker,” he explains. I was just all over the place. The military helped me get focused.”

For the next five years, he was stationed in places he had never seen before. “I was just all over the country,” he remembers. “Wyoming, Texas, Virginia.”

The journey continued even after he completed active duty and transferred to the reserves.

“When your contract is up, for two years after that, they can call,” he says. “Which they did.”

By the time he received his honorable discharge two years later, Corporal Lykes was a Chemical Operations Specialist with experience training soldiers how to identify and decontaminate biological weapons, nerve agents and poisons.

He returned to Beverly and worked security until a friend introduced him to the service industry. He became a member of the staff at a Lake Shore Dr. property and also filled-in at the Tides. When a position became available in the New Eastside building, he applied, received an offer, and said yes.

His previous experience is perfectly suited for the position.

“The military helped me deal with all walks of life,” he says.

“It taught me patience and how to deal with people. The values and the lessons that I learned from the military, they are priceless. I use them every day.”

But he’s quick to add that the challenges at the Tides have never tested this military-grade patience.

“I love the people here,” he says. “You have people from all walks of life, all places of the world. Everyone gets along just perfectly They make my job easy.”

The same goes for the building’s four-legged tenants.

“I’m a dog lover,” he says. “I’ve had dogs growing up my whole life. I love that this is a dog-friendly building.”

And it’s especially true of The Tides youngest residents.

“The kids here are so lively. They just put a smile on my face. They walk out that door, my whole morning lights up.”

— Daniel Patton

LaVelle Allen, Park Millennium

LaVelle Allen learned most of life’s important lessons as a child in Chicago’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

“My mom taught me how to communicate with people and treat people and be pleasant at all times,” she remembers. “She was a very outgoing person.”

Growing up with eight brothers and sisters, she had plenty of opportunities to perfect what her mother had preached. Now she puts that expertise to work as a member of the door staff at Park Millennium.

img_0969aweb“You’re the first person the residents see,” she says. “You smile and they feel good about their jobs.”

Her natural finesse for the role’s responsibilities is matched by a strong appreciation for the building’s residents.

“I’m comfortable with my position,” she says. “I love the tenants. Our manager, Cindy, is great. Anything has to get done, she gets it done.”

The instinct to provide comfort and show respect has also guided her to more than just a successful career.

Before joining the Park Millennium, Ms. Allen spent 25 years in the banking industry. When she was working at a particular branch where she could see homeless people “right across from City Hall,” she began collecting donations to provide coats, socks, hats, gloves, and toiletries for those in need.

To this day, a handful of grammar schools and churches continue to benefit from her efforts.

“My father always said that if you give, you will receive,” she explains.

In 2009, after she retired from the banking industry, Ms. Allen lost her mother, Gladys, to cancer.

She recalls that, “I wasn’t taking it so good,” when a friend gave her some life-changing advice.

“He said, ‘hey baby why don’t you get up and get your resume together and I’ll help you get a job.’”

She got the job at Park Millennium on the same day she interviewed.

The man who suggested the idea was someone she trusted. He came from the same community where she had grown up. He had been  a good neighbor for 42 years and a doorman on Lake Shore Drive for 25 of them. Also, he was her father-in-law.

“My husband Julius and I met in Mt. Vernon grammar school at 103rd and Morgan,” she says. “We have been together for 42 years.”

Together, the Allens have two children and six grandchildren. A seventh is on the way.

In her spare time, Ms. Allen operates a small business creating gift baskets and centerpieces, most of them for holidays and special occasions.

She started the operation as a creative outlet with a friend, but still enjoys the opportunity to tend to the needs of others.   

“Kids like Disney toys, Star Wars, Batman,” she says. “So I put that in my Easter baskets. Grownups like wine and other beverages. The exotic baskets have liquor, glasses, and candles.”

“Whatever the customers tell me they want and whatever design they want,” she says, “I fix it.”

Ryan Turner, Lancaster Condominiums

When Ryan Turner was just a teenager, he not only understood the value of a positive attitude, but he also consistently maintained one as point guard of the conference champion Gage Park High School basketball team.

“Even in the eyes of defeat, you have to see a win coming,” he says. “You put yourself into it and you get to know the inside and out.”

This is the philosophy that he brings to work every day as Doorperson of the Lancaster Condominiums.

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Ryan Turner (photo: patton)

“You don’t want to come home and see me with a frown on my face,” he explains. “I’m going to make it real easy. My smile might brighten your day.”

The optimistic outlook has helped Mr. Turner earn personal trust and handle delicate responsibilities throughout his career. Before coming to the Lancaster six months ago, he spent six years working security at TCS Bank locations in Calumet City and in Homewood.

Although he describes the position as somewhat routine, he remembers one particular day on the job as “the wackiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“We had those Keurig coffee machines and you’re only supposed to take one,” he explains. “A lady came into the bank in a post office worker uniform and emptied the whole box into her purse. The branch manager came to me, like he’s supposed to do. The lady was ready to fight, but I calmed her down.”

The assistant bank manager recognized Mr. Turner’s knack for working with people and suggested that he pursue the position at the Lancaster, where her brother-in-law Eric was a member of the door staff.

After receiving the position, he says, “I couldn’t ask for a better building.”

“The people here are lovely,” he continues. “I’m getting to know the residents as well as their dogs and their babies.”

Looking forward, Mr. Turner plans to build a foundation for the future with his girlfriend of two years, Treamaine.

“The whole family loves her,” he explains. “My father doesn’t say much, but when he said he liked her, I knew I had to keep her.”

Likewise, Treamaine appears to hold Mr. Turner in the same high regard: she was the assistant bank manager who encouraged him to seek opportunities at The Lancaster.

“She’s the first and only woman besides my mother to ever help me improve my life,” he says. “She’s the woman I’m gonna marry.”

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Betty Girma, Aqua Condominiums

When Aqua Condominiums Doorperson Betty Girma immigrated from Ethiopia to Chicago in 1989, she experienced more than just a culture shock.

“It was on December 5,” she remembers. “I know it’s cold, I hear it, but when you’re really here… Oh my goodness. I never expected that weather.”

Fortunately, a small but thriving Ethiopian community had firmly established itself — and the culture of its homeland — in the Lakeview neighborhood that she moved into long before she arrived.

IMG_0200webAmong those who populated this touch of eastern Africa in the Windy City was her Aunt Atsede. Aunt Atsede not only helped Betty adjust to life in America, but also provided her the basic necessities to get by.

“My aunt had a restaurant here at 3462 N. Clark,” Betty says. “It was called the Ethiopian Village. She lived upstairs and I lived with her and worked there for like two years.”

Betty enjoyed the same dishes that she had known while growing up in Adis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia.

“The bread, they make it from a grain called peff,” she says. “It’s very heavy.”

She also dined according to the traditional Ethiopian custom.

“Everybody eats together,” she explains. “No fork. No knife. One big plate and everybody eats from that.”

At the same time, she began studying Business Administration at Harold Washington College and eventually earned an associate’s degree.

The neighborhood was also home to The Wild Hare, one of the most popular reggae clubs in Chicago and a big part of the city’s Ethiopian community.

The Wild Hare was co-owned and operated by Zeleke “Zack” Gessessee, an Ethiopian immigrant and former bass player for Ziggy Marley. His sister would one day marry Betty’s brother.

The other co-owner was the brother of one of Betty’s friends. She worked at the Harbor Point Tower grocery store. and, six years ago, told Betty about a doorperson opportunity at the Aqua Condominiums.

At the time, Betty was manager of a parking garage, a job that did not make use of her talents.

“I don’t like sticking in the office,” she explains. “I deal with people and I like them.”

So she applied at the Aqua, got the offer, and quickly turned the lobby into a second home for the tenants.

“It’s not just about ‘hi, bye,’ and smile,” she explains. “Of course, that’s great — that’s customer service — but you should also ask people how are you, how was your day. When people come through this door, I went them to feel like they’re at home.”

And what better way to make people feel at home than by offering them a nice meal.

“I took so many people from Aqua to Ethiopian restaurants and everybody loves it,” she says. “I bring in food. The people here are just like my family.”

When she’s not at work, Betty enjoys spending time with the rest of her family, 17 year-old daughter, Sarah, and 10 year-old son, Rafael.

To nominate your doorperson, please email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

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